ALMOST LIKE A PLAGUE, the political ads of four candidates for president, five for vice president, and two dozen other candidates for senator and local posts have started to assault our TV screens starting March 2015, or 14 months ahead of the May 9, 2016 elections.

All together worth P6.7 billion, by media’s published rate cards, these pre-campaign ads have turned this year’s balloting into the priciest ever in the country’s electoral history.

Who paid for the ads? The candidates have variably said that their unnamed donors, and/or portions of their own money, covered the expense.
But why ever must donors part with their millions when only the candidates stand to gain from political ads? And how, some citizens have asked, should the candidates pay back these donors who gave them not just money but also a quick ride to instant celebrity and fame on TV?

By Nielsen Media’s monitoring reports, overkill is an understatement. It does not suffice to describe the stupendously rich pre-campaign ad spend of four candidates for president — Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance; Rodrigo Duterte of PDP-Laban; Grace Poe of the Galing at Puso slate; and Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II of the Liberal Party.

Specific to the last detail, Nielsen Media’s reports enroll the day, date, and time, and in which TV programs the ads aired; their rate card cost at the time of broadcast; and which versions of the candidates’ ad materials ran.

So the people may know, PCIJ has decided to reveal the full details of Nielsen Media’s reports on the TV ads that featured four candidates for president as “advertiser” and “product” from March 2015 to January 2016.